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The moon was smaller than yesterday.

Is this correct, and the "how large it was" was just omitted and implied, as in

The moon was smaller than (how large it was) yesterday.

or is this a faulty comparison, comparing something, "the moon," and an adverb, "yesterday"?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The sentence

The moon was smaller than yesterday

is grammatically incorrect, since you are comparing how large or small the moon was, at different times. The construction

The moon was smaller than (how large it was) yesterday

is also wrong, for this same reason. Rather, you should say:

The moon was smaller than it was yesterday

While this is grammatically correct, it could be incongruous with respect to time. If you want to retain the past tense, then you should rightly say:

The moon was smaller than it was the previous day

Or, keeping it in the present:

The moon is smaller [today] than it was yesterday

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"The moon was smaller than yesterday" is not grammatically incorrect. I use and hear similar constructions all the time, and I'm sure other people do. You might want to avoid using such a construction in formal situations, because it sounds fairly casual, but it is definitely not ungrammatical. –  Kosmonaut Jan 7 '11 at 0:47
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You don't need "how large," because the comparative "smaller" implies it already.

Also, as a side issue, "yesterday" implies that you're comparing it with today, so you need a present tense in the first half of the sentence. (If you're comparing one day to the next, both of which are in the past, you'd have to use "the day before" or something like that.)

So the proper forms would be:

"The moon is smaller than it was yesterday"

or

"The moon was smaller than it was the day before."

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+1 @Alex: Borrowing a leaf from @John Satta: Indeed, great minds do think alike! I love the telepathy on this site! –  Jimi Oke Jan 6 '11 at 23:48
    
Do you remember how small the moon looked yesterday? That is when the goddess of the moon is at her weakest. - But, Children-Taker, what about that one night we were by the long lake? I think the moon was even smaller than it was yesterday. - You are a fool, Maiden-Seeker. She is at her weakest by the same time every month. The moon is always the same size on those nights. –  Cerberus Jan 7 '11 at 0:21
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It is possible to compare the moon to yesterday and still use past tense. You might be inside of your house and be talking with someone about the moon, which you saw when you were outside an hour earlier, and you currently can't see. "The moon (earlier tonight) was smaller than yesterday." –  Kosmonaut Jan 7 '11 at 0:50
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